Color is the most enticing visual element, we like to create unique color stories and associate within our living space and in our clothing. There is more to color than just what we see. Color influences perceptions, touches emotions, and sways decisions.
It is fun to explore the fascinating ways our physical bodies, our brains, and our cultures shape the ways in which we interact with colors. Color psychology helps us create different moods according to our personality and requirement.
Colors of life are perceived differently by diverse cultural symbolism and communities worldwide across centuries. Nature has a spectacular range of colors and the combination of natural colors never fail to refresh and stimulate. The colors suitable for textile applications are called dyes and pigments for printing. Natural dyes were accidentally discovered from minerals and vegetables source by early civilizations; practiced and perfected by generations of craft communities in India.
The natural textile fibers get their inherent color from the natural source and species, the environmental conditions in growing and process the fiber extraction, various varieties of indigenous cotton and distinct varieties of silk and wool. Natural off-white hue of kora cotton (unbleached; bleaching is done to make the fibre whiter) like the Kala cotton from Kutch, Kundu (brown cotton) from Karnataka etcetera. The natural color of the silk cultivated and wild silk varieties also have an earthy appeal. There is a wide variety of natural tones in cotton and silk to choose from; they add their subtle dewy and pristine glow.
Color can be applied on textiles at various stages as well as by varied techniques.
This involves understanding of textile and dyeing chemistry. Indian “Rangrez”-dyeing communities have extracted natural dyes for centuries and the brilliant shades are a reflection of diverse, myriad color palette of the Indian subcontinent. The natural herbal dyes are derived from Manjeestha – madder red, Neel- indigo, Anar- yellow, pomegranate rind, Harda, Kattha etcetera. The traditional dyeing clusters were situated near a good source of mineral rich natural water which added to the color fastness of the dye and eventually the quality of the textile craft. The Chippa and Khatri communities in western part of India and the Devangas, the Padmasalis, the Kannebhaktulu and the Senapathalu communities along the Coromandel coast in the east. The Chippa community was so called as their primary occupation was dyeing and printing (chhapai - printing).
The natural fibers can be spun into yarns and then immersed in the dye bath for dyeing, yarn resist dyeing techniques like Ikkat is practiced in different clusters of
India like Patan in Gujarat, Pochampalli in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Subsequently woven into unique patterned textiles. Uncoloured fabric needs to be washed to remove all impurities, and then immersed in the dye bath to get even dye all over. Some fabric resist- dyeing techniques like Tie and dye- bandhni or bandhej and laheriya practiced across some clusters like Jaipur, Kutch, Saurashtra. Printing is the art of localised dyeing, using blocks, screens, stencils and directly by applying dye using paint brush or specialised pen to apply dye or pigment and resist certain parts of the fabric to create interesting motifs and pattern in textiles like Kalamkari (Fabric painting with kalam- Pen) Dabu print (Mud resist) or Batik (wax resist printing).
Neel - indigo blue
Neel, Nila, nilambari all signify the varied hues of cool sky and oceans; the vastness and tranquillity that soothes the mind and soul is derived from indigo.
The most natural indigo is obtained from Indigofera tinctoria means dyer’s indigo- bearing plant (tinctoria means dyer and indigofera means indigo bearing). The dyers follow vat recipes, where the indigo is fermented and dyed in the same large container or grounded pits. Indigo, the one natural colour that does not need a mordant, takes three days to make and another to dye. The Greeks called this blue pigment "indikon" which translates into a product from India, this word then became Indigo in English. Another ancient term for the dye is "nili" in Sanskrit which means dark blue from which the Arabic term for blue 'al-nil' was acquired. Indigo dyed fragments have been found in excavations of Indus Valley Civilization. Also, during the Industrial Revolution, the dye was used for European military uniforms and of course has been used in the US to dye blue jeans to give their distinctive blue color.
Manjeestha - Madder Red
Surkh, Lal, Kumkum, Gulal, Sindoor are all manifestation of the eternal love, warmth, festivity which has been dextrously dyed by the Indian “rangrez” extracting earthy red hue from the natural Manjeestha plant .
Dyer’s Madder, the main source of true red, is Rubia tinctorum, the most studied variety. This sprawling perennial has narrow pointed leaves and prickly stems. Plants need to grow three to five years to reach vigorous color potential, so plant with patience!
Madder is one of our most ancient dyes–the universal red. Cotton textiles from the Indus civilization date to around 3000 B.C. A madder-dyed belt was found in
Tutankhamun’s grave and archeologists have unearthed madder-dyed fabrics in ancient China.
Anar - Golden yellow
Haldi Sunheri Peela Chandan Mustard Ochre all these are symbolic of inherent warmth , positivity and rustic festivities which has been dextrously dyed by the Indian “rangrez” extracting earthy yellow hue from the natural fruit Anar (Pomegranate rind).
Pomegranate (Punica granatum) known as a symbol of love in antiquity, the pomegranate has been a popular fruit for thousands of years. Dyers use the rind to produce golden yellows, greens, greys, and blacks.
Kattha- Natural Brown
The rustic colors of earth, soil , dust and ashes are very soothing on the eye and compliment most colors in nature. Kattha dye creates the colour khak (or khaki), an Indian word for dust, earth, and ashes.
An extract of acacia trees used variously as a food additive, astringent, tannin, and dye. It is extracted from several species of Acacia, but especially Senegaliacatechu (Acacia catechu), is a brown dye used for tanning and dyeing a yellowish - brown. It gives gray-browns with an iron mordant and olive-browns with a copper mordant. Kattha was used to dye the khaki color of military uniforms because this color is difficult to see at a distance and provides a natural camouflage.
The true brilliance of natural dyed hues is best achieved in yarn-dyeing and then hand weaving them into beautiful fabrics. The natural dyed hues derived from Indigo, kattha , madder bark, pomegranate rind are herbal & have skin- friendly healing properties for the dyer and the wearer . Natural herbal dyeing procedure is chemical free, which has medicinal values and has no allergens or carcinogenic elements hence skin friendly and eco- friendly. The effluent water after the dyeing is also treated responsibly, to be repurposed and allowed to go back to the earth, with no harmful impact. The herbal hand washing of clothes is recommended to prevent water pollution. The herbal hand washing procedure is recommended and the after wash water can be used to water your plants too.
Organic Washing Care
Adopt organic washing using “Reetha” soapnut for chemical free laundry. You can hand-wash delicate clothes or gentle machine wash. Avoid dry cleaning, learn the art of home cleaning your well-loved collectibles, steer clear of harmful chemicals detrimental to your health and the environment like the bleaches, fabric softeners, harsh detergents which promise to release satins easily. Sundry the clothes avoid using a separate dryer, this saves electricity and disinfects with natural sunlight. This way we care for fashion and the environment too.
With the introduction of synthetic dyes and textile fibers in the 20th century, and subsequent mass production the world has gradually moved towards the bright and shiny color palette of industrially produced textiles and clothing. Often at the peril of the environment and hardworking people involved in these fast fashion industries in the 21 st century. The authentic color palette of Indian textile; is the ones dyed in natural dyes, one can see it included in certain museum pieces, family heirlooms, few vintage and contemporary wardrobes. A striking opposition is chemical dyed and synthetic textiles’ kitsch and loud color palettes as seen in massy, Indian version of fast-fashion, low quality cheap clothes popularised by widespread media. By using natural dyes, we make a conscious effort to help provide sustainable employment to rural population and contributing towards helping the environment and reducing the use of petrochemicals. The appreciation for the subtle earthy appeal of the natural dyeing, hand woven and handmade clothes is the way ahead for mindful production, communication, and consumption of slow fashion. The rustic warmth of the earthy natural dyed textiles adds zest and subtle aroma too.
The compendium of Indian handcrafted textiles and costume silhouettes is a rich resource to create chic contemporary fusion looks combining colors, textures,
pattern, and print. These natural colors are timeless, skin friendly and comfortable give us the opportunity enjoy and display good taste and embrace mindful slow lifestyle.
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Thanks & Regards,
Dr Vaibbhavi Pruthviraj Ranavaade